Credit British Museum

The Vrindavani Vastra cloth, a rare Indian textile produced in Assam in the 17th century. Image courtesy of the British Museum.

History of rich Indian textiles brought to life at free event in Exeter

The history of stunning rare Indian textiles will be brought to life by experts at a free event at the University of Exeter this week.

The unique artefacts show the vibrant history of India and are the only remaining examples of their kind. The talk is hosted by the University of Exeter’s South Asia Centre.

Richard Blurton, from the British Museum, will talk about the 17th-century Vrindavani Vastra cloth, a rare Indian textile produced in Assam in the late 17th century. The cloth is the largest surviving example of a textile used for worship and made of woven silk. It depicts scenes from the life of the Hindu god Krishna when he lived in the forest of Vrindavan. It was created as a devotional act recording stories from the life of Krishna by the followers of the Assamese saint, Shankaradeva.

The textile is nine metres long and made of 12 strips, now sewn together. It was found in Tibet by Perceval Landon, a friend of Rudyard Kipling, during an expedition in the Edwardian era. Mr Landon was a correspondent for the Times newspaper and gave the textile to the British Museum in 1905. Richard Blurton is a member of the South Asia Centre’s advisory group who will be in Exeter for a day of research discussions.

Tony Eccles, from the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter, will speak about a choga, part of the RAMM’s collection. The textile is a nobleman’s jacket/robe, which was probably seized by a British military officer during or after the violent mutiny of the East India Company’s soldiers in 1857 and prolonged civil rebellion. Mr Eccles will also describe other textile and non-textile South Asian artefacts in the RAMM’s collection.

The experts are not able to transport the fragile pieces of cloth away from their museums, but will have plenty of rich images to show attendees.

Exeter academics from archaeology, history, drama and English make up the membership of the South Asia Centre and are engaged in wide-ranging research in the humanities, arts and culture of and relating to South Asia.

Dr Gillian Juleff, Co-Director of the centre, said: “We are very excited to offer this unique chance to hear experts talking about some of the most important pieces of Indian textile. They are visually stunning and I know Richard and Tony will bring their histories to life. We look forward to meeting as many people as possible at the lecture.”

The free event, called Threads of connection: South Asian textiles in British collections, will be held at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies building on the University of Exeter Streatham campus at 4pm on Wednesday, 3 May.

Date: 28 April 2017

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